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Doremi residency, Coniston, Cumbria. Hosts The Coniston Institute & Grizedale arts.

‘This mark in the ear was called in Norse law, the Lög i.e., the lawful mark or brand. The same hereditary mark was peculiar to, and used by each family for their sheep, and passed down from father to son.’

This mark is a shape cut directly into the ear that leaves an empty space.

During this week long residency in Coniston I set-up a clay workshop where I cast a number of household objects collected from people living locally. The collecting of objects was an opportunity to start a conversation. From these conversations I became familiar with the Herdwick sheep and the term ‘Hefted’, used to describe how the Herdwicks are rooted to a particular patch of land. One lady I spoke with described her sense of belonging to Coniston as being ‘Heafed like sheep to the fell’. The opposite of being ‘Hefted’ to the land is ‘Incomer’ used to describe someone that has come to live in a place but did not grow up there.

The origin of the sheep is uncertain but they may have been introduced by Norse-Irish settlers in the 10th & 11th century or derived from animals introduced by Neolithic or Bronze age herdsmen. In this respect the Herdwick sheep speak of a long history of migration that is carried into local dialect and customs while also reflecting something of the transition from migrant to settler, from incomer to hefted.

Readings by Vicky at the Ruskin Museum.

The text is read from The Mountain Sheep : their origin and marking. By the REV. T. ELLWOOD, M.A., Rector of Torver, Coniston and from Swallows & Amazons by Arthur Ransome.